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The Rebellious Game: The Power of Football in the Middle East and North Africa between the Global and the Local


By the end of the 19th century, British colonisers, in particular, not only played football as a pastime, they also made use of it to consolidate the political, economic and military interests of the motherland. But while the so-called ‘beautiful game’ served as an instrument of colonial control, both ‘civilising’ and ‘disciplining’ the colonial subjects, it also evolved into a transnational beacon for independence movements, with stadiums becoming important social spaces on the local and national levels. Overall, from a longue durée perspective, the interplay of local and global factors relating to football has triggered both emancipatory and repressive dynamics throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Indeed, the emancipatory power of football has been a consistent feature across the region since the colonial age. However, more recently, the massive wealth of the Arab Gulf States and their decision to invest in football’s ‘soft power’ has again changed the equation.
Keywords: football; colonialism; MENA; globalisation